Ahead of his gig at The Doctor’s Orders 250th event at Scala on 13th April, we caught up with one of hip-hop’s legends. We all know him from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but this guys true talent lies within music. Having made a name for himself from his iconic scratching, cutting and mixing skills he has gone on to produce a Grammy Award winning album ‘He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper’, as well as heading up his own production company, A Touch of Jazz. He has also paved the way and help nurture and develop fellow Phily artists such as Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild. Along with production for likes of Slum Village and De La Soul, albums, tours and keeping grounded with his family we spoke to ‘The Magnificent’ DJ Jazzy Jeff.
It’s a pleasure to be speaking to a hip-hop legend, how are you?
I’m good just in Philadelphia
Ok, that’s home right?
So you’ve never moved out of Philadelphia, is that right?
Man, you know what I can’t.
Home is where the heart is right?
That’s it, that’s it.
So how is life for you generally?
Ah man I’m great man you know, the family is doing good, music is doing good, you know going all over the world, playing music for people, everybody having a good time, man it doesn’t get better than that.
You're living the dream?
Yeah, I really am.
Nice one, so tell me about your family, how big is the family?
Well it’s me and I have 3 year old twins and my wife and, you know I have a 13 year old, and I have a 25 year old so..
Yeah we have a good time.
Have you got any DJ’s in that clan of yours?
Well you know what, I’m actually working on the album with my 13 year old son who’s an incredible MC.
Yeah, that’s on the undercover, we not telling anybody about that!
Oh, you schoolin’ him to be one of the best right?
Uh huh, haha.
Nice, I’m sure he’s got you to look up to, so I mean, I’m sure you're gonna put him on the right road?
Oh absolutely I have to.
So tell me man, when you were coming up was there any DJs that inspired you?
Well you know what, it was always the Grandmaster Flash’s, Flash more than anybody because Flash you know was the showman, Flash was the leader of Furious Five and I was just like how funky Flash is. It’s really cool to have a guy like that, that you know that you look up to as your idol and become one of your close friends.
That must be amazing, did he come to Philly when you were young?
Oh yeah, I went to see him, I actually did a show with Flash when I was really young and we went up and did our DJ routines and all the rest of the stuff, you know it’s cool.
So just going back to the beginning of your career, what does London mean to the start of your career?
Ahh man, London was the first big city that I’ve ever gone to, you know when we came out with ‘Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble’, that was a huge record in London we actually recorded ‘He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper’ in London and I stayed at the Holiday Inn in Swiss Cottage for a month and a half! London kinda became my second home you know I got friends over there, I know my way around, you know it’s just that I’ve always loved the vibe. London reminds me a lot of Philly, so you know just throughout the years man it has become one of my favourite places to go and my favourite places to play.
Did you just say that you recorded ‘He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper’ and you wrote it in Swiss Cottage?
Yeah, we stayed in the Holiday Inn Swiss Cottage for over a month and we recorded that entire album and it was written and pretty much produced in the hotel.
Man that’s crazy, that’s like two minutes from where I grew up and that’s like one of my all time first hip hop records man. I mean that was a good time for hip hop. ‘He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper’ you guys were trailblazing right there?
Yeah, yeah and we didn’t know it at all.
It was like you had something so fresh, it was so new. That kinda hit me as a kid, that was huge. So obviously back in the day, DJs would align themselves to rappers and you guys had some crazy chemistry. Do you guys ever get to get it back on?
Ah man we do it like anytime we get back together. Anytime Will has a movie premiere and I’ll do the premiere party and he comes up on stage and it turns into a gesture for Fresh Prince of Bel Air. And it absolutely amazes people because they’re kinda like you guys haven’t seen each other for 4 months, you haven’t talked to each other, but you walk up on the stage and we still have the same cues we had 25 years ago to know what he wants to do, how long he wants to do it, we’re gonna cut this short, I’m gonna scratch this right here, like it’s the exact same thing. Like that’s something I don’t think we’ll ever lose.
I bet Will doesn’t get out to that many parties, does he?
Not as much as he’d like. You know we’ve had a couple of times when he just popped up and you know we did some stuff that people really lost their minds to. And we talk about it all the time, you know he’ll ask me when’s the next time you’re going on the road and I send him my schedule because you never know he might just show up.
I know that Will could probably handle any rappers that are around right now, but if you were young right now and you had to align yourself with a rapper who would that be?
I like Kendrick Lamar right now, I really like Kendrick. I really like him because he kinda reminds me of an old school rapper. You know he’s got a bunch of different styles and you should listen to the songs on his record. You know they’re not the typical songs that everybody would play, you know he’s got a 7 minute song on his album, I love that.
Yeah that’s right, he’s a fresh kind of artist, he’s definitely something new right?
You know that’s how people looked at us. It’s interesting that you’ve got a lean artist out but you know that 999,000 wanna be the same.
Yeah, so it’s interesting that someone new is coming up. So you’ve definitely got your own DJ style and I mean, if I had a party or a wedding you would be the guy that I’d have on the decks. So, is there a DJ right now that you think, oh this guy can rock a party?
Oh man, there’s so many and it’s crazy because there’s a lot of them. I did a party a week and a half ago in San Francisco and me and Shortkut played on four turntables. And every time we’d go out there we’d do the exact same party. I think Shortkut is an amazing party rocker and there’s a DJ in Toronto named Scratch Master and he’s probably hands down one of my favourites. You know there’s so many, you know there’s Four Colors who’s amazing. I really like the fact that it’s a bunch of guys who know how to play a bunch of different styles of music and play in a way that you won’t get bored in a set of 2 hours.
You are coming over to London for a very special event soon. The Doctor’s Orders 250th Event Party at Scala on 13th April. Are you looking forward to this one?
Yeah, it is gonna be crazy am really looking forward to coming back to London.
And you’ve got a crazy schedule for this year, is there anything in particular that you’re looking forward to?
Well as I said I’m coming to the UK soon, then I’m off to Russia, where I’ve never played before. I’m gonna be playing The Doctor’s Orders party on 13th and I have a really good friend a comedian Russell Peters who’s actually gonna be over at the same time as me as he is playing at The O2. Russell actually travels with two amazing DJs, DJ Spinback and DJ Scratch from Toronto. So we’re gonna hang out and you know go find a couple places in London to play. I love playing tours where I can go and hear some fresh music and pick up some new music, you just kinda get away for a second.
Nice, and because you’re from Phily you’re not put off by the cold out here, you’re used to it?
Oh yeah, Phily weather and UK weather are almost exactly alike. So you know the same things, the coats, the hats, the scarves. You know you gotta bundle up and hopefully it will start to warm up!
So you’ve achieved so much in life, what is left on your list?
You know what, I look at it like my job is to make people happy through my music so as long as I keep doing that I am extremely blessed. If everything stopped tomorrow I would have no complaints, no issues. I have lived very much a blessed life and right now is a time to give back and you know I love it.
So have you ever been to Africa?
Yes, mainly South Africa, I was in South Africa in the fall and I think I’m gonna go back this year.
Nice and how are they feeling you out there?
I love it. I love the music, I love the people. Everyone is so engaging and so happy. I can’t wait to go back.
Now I seem to think that everything you touch turns to gold. Is that true?
No, absolutely not. But you know I can’t stop, I’ve been blessed to have a job that I love so I can’t stop it.
So do you have any regrets?
No, you know what because without the regrets there wouldn’t be any rewards, everything has to balance out. I can’t complain about the bad and love just the good, that’s not fair.
Okay, and what advice would you give to anyone who wanted to be as big as you?
You know what and it’s crazy because I’m not a 100% sure of the advice that I would give because the advice that worked for me may not work for them because it’s a different time in music. One of the things that I tell people is to surround yourself with honest people, don’t surround yourself with people who will lie to you. You want somebody that will tell you the truth, that if what you’re doing isn’t good they’ll tell you because that’s the only way you’re going to become good.. Just have honest people around you who can keep you grounded and keep you focused on your goal.
Here’ s a couple of randoms now. If you could fill a swimming pool with anything in the world what would it be?
Hmm that’s a good question, what would it be? Hmm records.
Records, man have you not got enough records Jeff?
You can never have enough records. It’s impossible!
How many records do you get sent? Is it like fifty a week?
Well I get sent music not so much records, I still buy records when I go out and that will never change. You can never have enough records.
Do the rappers still reach out to you when they got a track?
Yeah sometimes, people sometimes send me music to play. You know sometimes I get hit up like hey man I’m looking to do something, so that’s cool.
Do you still produce?
Okay, because obviously I know that you’ve always been producing but I thought because your DJ career has been so big I thought maybe you might have put that on a back burner?
Well no you can’t, you have kinda got to figure out a way to balance the two out. You know I’m working on a couple of projects now that I’m trying to launch by the summer.
Okay you gonna launch some classic beats?
So can you tell me something that most people don’t know about you Jeff?
I’m a great cook. I’m like almost chef-like.
Is that because your wife doesn’t cook?
No my wife’s a wonderful cook but if I wasn’t a DJ I’d be a cook.
You know they say that mixing a track is like making a track. You gotta pick the best ingredients?
That’s right you gotta put the right ingredients and just the right amount.
So if you’re making food like you mix and make music I need to taste that Jeff?
That’s it, that’s it. Be on the lookout for Jolly Jeff’s food trucks!
Maybe we should start a chain of restaurants?
Yeah, well we’re gonna start with the food truck first. Get everybody hooked on it and then we’ll turn it into a restaurant.
If there was one thing you could change about your life what would you change?
Like I said I can’t say that there’s something that I would change because I think that if I changed it then my life wouldn’t be the same. I’ve gotta accept the good and the bad with it.
Is there anything you wish you was better at?
Alright Jeff well I’m pretty sure that everything you touch does turns into gold. So I’m hoping that you’ve got some big dreams and a lot of things lined up?
Jazzy will be playing at The Doctor’s Orders 250th Event Party @ Scala on 13th Arpril for tickets go to: www.thedoctorsorders.com
Words by Oshi Okomilo @MRoshi